Written by Ira Steven Behr, Richard Manning, Hans Beimler, Ronald D. Moore, Trent Christopher Ganino, & Eric A. Stillwell
Directed by David Carson
Hands down when I am asked about what are my favorite episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, this one always gets mentioned. In fact, I’d say it’s pretty much neck-and-neck with the sixth season episode Relics as my favorite.
While investigating a radiation anomaly, the Enterprise D encounters a rift in time through which sails the Enterprise C, the immediate predecessor of Captain Picard’s (Patrick Stewart) ship.
This creates an immediate change in the space/time continuum. The Star Trek universe we’ve known all along disappears, replaced by one in which neither the Klingon Worf (Michael Dorn) nor Counselor Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) are on the bridge of the Enterprise, but Tasha Yar (Denise Crosby) is. Tasha was killed off by the evil entity Armus in the first-season episode Skin of Evil.
The Enterprise C had been responding to a distress call at a Klingon Outpost when the Romulans descended upon both for an attack. During an intense barrage of photon torpedoes, the ship escaped through the rift.
The Klingons value honor above all else and would have considered it a tremendous honor for the Enterprise C to have sacrificed itself protecting the Outpost. It’s never really clear whether the Klingons just don’t know about the Enterprise C being present at the battle or whether they think the ship ran out on them, but either way, a war between the Klingons and the Federation is the result.
Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg), an El-Aurian, is the only one who can detect the change in the space/time continuum. She informs Picard that none of this should be happening; not the war, not the Enterprise D being a warship.
Picard is now faced with a choice of sending the crew of the Enterprise C back into the battle and certain death while possibly changing history, or keeping them here where their impact on the current war is negligible.
There are some fantastic performances in this episode. One of the more subtle differences in the relationship between Picard and Riker (Jonathan Frakes) which both actors manage to pull off very well. Here it is more confrontational; I got the feeling that Riker and Picard rarely see eye-to-eye in this universe.
The guest cast is as close to perfect for fitting into the Star Trek universe as you can get. Although Denise Crosby was once a regular cast member, she has been gone for a year and a half, yet still manages to fit in with the crew when placed in that situation. Tricia O’Neil as Rachel Garrett, the Captain of the Enterprise C is excellent. She gives a strong sense of character and determination and seems at ease in the role. Christopher McDonald as Richard Castillo, the tactical officer, is excellent as he vacillates between not just time periods but also between his role as an officer and eventual commander of the Enterprise C as well as suitor for Tasha Yar.
This episode also serves as a jumping-off point for a few fine stories to come later on. There is the whole story of who sold the Klingons out to the Romulans that will affect Worf later on down the road for quite some time. Although Tasha Yar is not seen again, we do get to eventually meet her offspring. After learning of her fate in the “real” universe, Tasha makes a decision to accompany the Enterprise C back through the rift in time at tactical. Castillo is now in command after Captain Garrett is killed in an attack by the Klingons at war with the Federation. This sets up a chain of events that takes everyone by surprise.
There are brief moments we see Worf both at the beginning and end of the episode. During one of those instances, Worf is first given prune juice to drink by Guinan and labels it “a warrior’s drink”. This results in Michael Dorn being inundated with bottles of prune juice at future Trek conventions.
At one time or another, we’ve all probably thought about changing something we’ve done in our history, not thinking of the ripples it might cause. Trent Christopher Ganino and Eric A. Stillwell, the writers of this episode deserve all the credit for giving us a look at what a difference a seemingly small incident can make.
The story is fantastic, the writing is excellent, and the performances are wonderful. It’s as close to perfection as I’ve ever seen in the Star Trek universe.
Previous episode (link): Star Trek: The Next Generation: A Matter of Perspective
Next episode (link): Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Offspring